I’m Chamorro and I’m proud

Pierson Cepeda, Assistant Web & Social Media Manager


 

My name is Pierson Cepeda. I am originally from the island of Saipan, which is a part of the Northern Mariana Islands, a commonwealth of the United States, and that makes me Chamorro.

When my family made the move to California, I was still very much a young kid (nine years old) and I believe that made the transition easier for me. I was still impressionable and forming my view of the world. Fast-­forward to today and I am 23 years-­old and find myself a little older, a little wiser and re-­discovering my Chamorro culture that I forgot when I was young.

Something that has stuck with me is the importance of family. Family is, of course, an important part of any culture, but on an island, these bonds are more intense due to the close proximity of each and every person. As I start to inch closer towards graduating and stepping into the “real world,” the importance of these bonds is becoming more apparent than ever.

My family, being tightly interconnected, celebrated any and all things. In Saipan, I lived across the street from my grandparent’s house, the hub for my family, and I was able to see every person in my family by simply walking across the street. This made things like birthday parties, marriages and graduating first grade all occasions for my family to converge and celebrate. Nowadays, that kind of support system is special and tough to find.

Another important aspect of Chamorro culture is religion; it provided another avenue for support. Every Sunday was a day I begrudgingly attended mass. Even the elementary school I attended, Calvary Christian Academy, was affiliated with the church. Although I am not devout in faith, I still remember how religion provides solace and community, which makes it an important part of Chamorro culture.

Family may imply blood relation, however, I would like to expand this to include any and all people I consider “family.” If there is someone who needs support from me, I feel an obligation to extend a helping hand because of my culture. If I feel invested in something, I am determined to see it through to the end. If I am confronted with anything, I fall back to the things that I learned growing up.

The phrase “To know where you’re going, you need to know where you come from” is a cliché, but it holds up. I know where I come from; I come from a culture that values closeness and community, seeing those things as strength.

The Cougar Chronicle The independent student news site of California